Best Torque Wrench – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews 2017
Best Torque Wrench – MaintainYourRide Recommends: TEKTON 24335 1/2-Inch Click Torque Wrench
Best Torque Wrench – Introduction
A quality Torque Wrench is a must have for any serious mechanic or do-it-yourself’er. Each automotive manufacturer engineers and tests their bolts, nuts, screws and other hardware to a specific level. These levels guarantee proper performance and durability for the specific application. Over or under-tightening bolts on your car or truck can cause severe issues such as bolt shearing, loose bolts falling out, frozen bolts, etc.
Certain parts of your car must withstand much higher forces than others. For instance, your lug nuts that hold the wheels to the hub experience much greater forces than the oil pan drain plug. They are also significantly larger. The manufacturer provides specifications for each of these bolt types based on this information. Lug nuts require a greater level of tightening (torque) to ensure safety. Tightening a drain plug to the same level that a lug nut requires could easily round off or shear the bolt.
Torque Wrenches provide the ability to measure the level of torque (tightness) that is applied to each bolt/nut/screw. They help ensure that each time you tighten a bolt, it will meet and not exceed the manufacturer specifications. This will provide additional safety and peace of mind while driving.
Imagine doing a brake pad service. Again, there are greater forces acting on the brake caliper bolts than average. Now think about driving around after. Are you sure you tightened the bolts enough to ensure they won’t fall out and jeopardize your safety? Are you sure you didn’t over-tighten them and they won’t shear or freeze again compromising safety? As you can see, this can be applied to almost any service you want to perform on your car. It’s important to have a good quality torque wrench in your toolbox and USE IT. For your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the other drivers on the road.
How to Use a Torque Wrench
There are multiple types of torque wrenches, we will discuss the 3 most common types:
Click Torque Wrenches – Torque is preset and with a calibrated clutch mechanism. Typically a ball detent and spring are used, with the spring preloaded by an adjustable screw thread, calibrated in torque units. The ball detent transmits force until the preset torque is reached, and the force exerted by the spring is overcome and the ball “clicks” out of its socket. This design provides greater precision and both tangible and audible feedback on reaching the desired torque.
Electronic Torque Wrenches – With electronic torque wrenches, measurement is by means of a strain gauge attached to the torsion rod. The signal generated by the transducer is converted to the required unit of torque and shown on the digital display. This type can provide an early indication when approaching the preset torque measurement.
Beam Torque Wrenches – The most basic form of torque wrench consists of two beams. The first is a lever used to apply the torque to the fastener being tightened and serves also as the handle of the tool. When force is applied to the handle it will deflect predictably and proportionally with said force in accordance with Hooke’s law. The second beam is only attached at one end to the wrench head and free on its other, this serves as the indicator beam. When the wrench is used to apply torque, the lever bends and the indicating beam stays straight. Thus the end of the indicating beam points to the magnitude of the torque that is currently being applied. This type of wrench is simple, inherently accurate, and inexpensive.
Reading a Torque Wrench
Torque Wrench read-outs vary by the type of torque wrench. Click-style wrenches will generate an audible and tangible click when they reach the preset torque level. Beam-style wrenches give a real-time read out based on the angle of the beam deflection. An arrow indicator attached to the wrench head will point to the current torque measurement. Electronic wrenches also give a real-time read out of the current torque. Most will give an audible electronic beep when the preset torque value is reached.
Top 5 Best Torque Wrench Comparison
The Tooluxe 03703L is a dual-drive beam style torque wrench made from hardened steel. Dual-drive means that has a 3/8″ and 1/2″ drive head which are the two most common sizes and should fit most socket sets you already have.It is calibrated in both directions from 0 to 150 ft. lbs. Beam deflection wrenches provide precise readings every time and rarely come out of calibration like other types of wrenches. They also have a wider useable torque range starting from 0, not to mention the fact that they are significantly cheaper.
The downsides to a beam deflection wrench are the lack of feedback and accuracy that can be achieved. When tightening a bolt, the user must be able visually gauge torque based on the deflection of the beam. This can be challenging for certain locations in the engine bay.
The Tooluxe 03703L is the clear choice for the best cheap torque wrench with a price tag under twenty dollars. The durability and precision of the beam deflection design in combination with the price and the reviews make this a great option for a mechanics on a budget.
CDI Torque is a subsidiary of Snap-On Tools so the manufacturing and quality control will be top notch. The 2503MFRPH is an excellent tool with exceptional precision in both clockwise and counter-clockwise rotations. With a torque range from 30 ft.lbs. to 250 ft.lbs., it is extremely accurate measuring within 1% tolerance. The body has laser-etched measurements in Newton-meters as well as foot-pounds.
The wrench features a spring-loaded lock collar that needs to be pulled to release a locking mechanism to set the appropriate torque allowing it to stay in place for multiple uses. There is also a quick release button that provides excellent socket retention as well as easy removal.
This is the most expensive wrench on the list with a price around two-hundred dollars, however, the Snap-On brand and the exceptional tolerances and durability it provides great long-term value. This is probably the last torque wrench you’ll need to buy which is why it is our recommendation for the best torque wrench from a strictly performance standpoint.
The TEKTON 24340 is a 1/2″ drive click-style torque wrench. It is rated for 25-250ft-lbs and is calibrated to an accuracy of 4%. The click-style wrench emits a click that can be easily heard and felt when the preset torque value is reached. This wrench includes a reversible ratchet head that drives in both directions but only measures torque in the clockwise direction.
It has a durable all-steel construction and has no plastic parts to break or wear out. Its laser-etched, high-contrast dual-range scale is easy to read and set. This click wrench has a rotating handle with a screw style lock. The handle is rotated until the appropriate torque value line is met. It is locked into place by screwing in the small nut on the bottom of the handle.
This is a very reasonably priced wrench at just over fifty dollars. Hundreds of reviewers have rated it just over four and a half stars. This would be our recommendation for the best torque wrench for anyone who needs torque levels greater than 150 ft-lbs.
The ACDelco ARM601-4 is a fully electronic 1/2″ drive torque wrench with a torque range of 4 to 100 ft-lbs. The electronic nature of this torque wrench allows more settings and scales. You can use the typical torque mode as well as a measurement mode to test the current tightness. It also provides measurements in Foot-pounds, Newton-meters, Inch-pounds, and kilogram-centimeters and is rated to 2% accuracy.
The LCD Display is easily readable and displays measurements in real-time. An audible buzzer is also available to alert the user when the specified torque level is reached. It takes three AAA batteries making it fairly lightweight for its size at about 1kg (2.2lbs). It has a quick release ratchet head with 45 gear teeth.
This wrench comes very reasonably priced for an electronic/digital torque wrench at just over a hundred dollars and is rated at four and a half stars. If you’re looking for something a bit more flexible than the average torque wrench, that provides a few extra helpful features, this wrench is perfect.
This TEKTON is almost identical to the 24340 featured in the #3 spot on this list. However, it has a lower torque range of 10-150 ft-lbs and a much lower price tag. Typically 150 ft-lbs is enough to fit most automotive maintenance jobs, however, make sure to research the upper limits of what your car or truck could require before pulling the trigger on one of these wrenches.
Again, just like the 24340, it emits an audible click and provides haptic feedback giving a clear indication that the predefined torque limit is being reached. It ships pre-calibrated to +/- 4% and arrives ready to use in a hard orange carrying/storage case. Its high-contrast dual-range scale is extremely easy to read in any type of light. The ratchet head only has 24 teeth meaning it is not quite as flexible in tight spaces.
Thousands of reviewers have voiced their opinions leaving an average of four and a half stars for this wrench. With a price under forty dollars and a full set of features for most jobs, this is the clear choice for the best torque wrench when factoring in performance and value.
Common Questions about Torque Wrenches
What does a Torque Wrench Do
A Torque Wrench measures the amount of rotational force that is currently being applied to a bolt or nut. It provides the ability to ensure hardware is tightened to the appropriate level based on manufacturer specification.
When to use a Torque Wrench
Many of the bolts and nuts in an automotive setting are experiencing extreme conditions on a regular basis. In order to ensure that they perform to the best possible safety standards, using the manufacturer torque specifications is very important. Using a Torque Wrench for Lug Nuts a great example of how vital it is to use a torque wrench. Under tightening could cause the wheel to fall off the car, while over tightening could cause the wheel studs to break.
Using Torque Wrench with Extensions
When you put an extension on a torque wrench, the torque applied to the fastener increases as the lever arm extends. There is a calculation you can perform to determine the value that should be set.
M1 = M2 x L1 / L2
M1 is the torque setting of the wrench
M2 is the actual torque applied to the nut
L1 is the normal length of the wrench
L2 is the extended length of the wrench
This calculator will work out what value you should set into the wrench to achieve the required fastener torque.
How to Calibrate a Torque Wrench
Hopefully, you will not need to calibrate your torque wrench. Most come calibrated from the factory. However, after a certain amount of time, some types of wrenches can lose some of their calibration when their springs get stretched.
Try to avoid leaving the click-style torque wrenches in a set position when storing. Always unscrew it all the way to 0 to avoid stretching the spring.
For more information on how to properly use a torque wrench, check out this video:
MYR Recommended Best Torque Wrench – Overall – TEKTON 24335 1/2-Inch Click Torque Wrench
MYR Recommended Best Torque Wrench – Performance – CDI Torque 2503MFRPH 1/2-Inch Drive Torque Wrench
MYR Recommended Best Torque Wrench – Value – Tooluxe 03703L 3/8″ and ½” Dual Drive Torque Wrench
Be sure to check out our other pages for all of your Automotive Maintenance needs. We recently did a review of the Best OBD2 Scanner options on the market. A scanner is another quintessential tool for the garage just like the torque wrench!
Consider some storage options for your car as well. We reviewed the Top 5 Best Hard Shell Roof Carriers to help ensure you get the best value for your money.